Monday, July 16, 2012

Tacos That Almost Came Out Right

The casual polling I've done to find out what people just aren't willing to go without during Corn-Free July has yielded an almost unanimous response of tortillas or tortilla chips. After searching all the usual hook-ups for minimally processed ingredients to no avail, I realized I'd have to try to make them myself.  Luckily, there's a wide world of food blogs out there, and a tortilla recipe was just a Google search away.

Once I found the recipe, I for once not only read the entire thing through ahead of time, but actually bought all the ingredients a whole day in advance.  With all this planning ahead, there was no way anything could go wrong.

The following morning when I read the recipe (and my package of flour) a little more carefully and saw that I had whole wheat instead of white, I figured it was no big deal. When I realized too late that I'd used the wrong measuring spoon and added three times the baking soda I should have, I didn't want to waste all that flour it was already mixed in with. When I was straining my shoulders trying to roll the dough out ever thinner so that it at least approached the eight inch diameter that the recipe was supposed to have yielded, I said what I always say when work gets too frustrating, "I'll finish it after lunch."

Except that it was lunch. The Thai place on speed dial in my phone couldn't help me out of this. I mentally took stock of what was in the house as I tried in vain to get the dough to roll thinner without bunching in on itself. Corn-Free July, as you know if you're participating, takes a serious toll on the old bank account.  After deciding that I just couldn't eat cereal or spaghetti one more time this week, I found I'd exhausted my options.  So I kept rolling.  And eventually, the tortilla rolled out enough. Sort of.
This one came out looking like a heart!

In the end they were a little too thick, a little too gritty, and they just tasted...well...weird.  But I liked them anyway. Maybe because I felt pride in having made them, maybe just because I was so hungry by the time they were finally done.

The following recipe is adapted, very poorly, from Lisa Fain's blog Homesick Texan, and she in turn adapted it from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  Click over to one of these no-doubt great primary sources if you're chicken, but if you're up for an adventure, stay and read on.


2 cups all-purpose flour (If you absolutely can't face using all white flour, substitute one cup whole wheat flour, but not both. It get all gritty, and, no.  It just doesn't work.)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (That's the measuring spoon that says "1/2" on it.  If it looks bigger than the one just you just used for the cream of tartar, that should be a clue that it's the wrong one.)
2 teaspoons organic canola oil
3/4 cup Horizon Organics milk, warmed on the stove. (Don't forget that it's warming on the stove.)
1 organic tomato
1/2 green pepper
1/2 white onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon (Beware of citric acid in the bottled stuff.)
1 can black beans
1 bag Horizon Organics Monterey Jack cheese (This brand makes all kinds of grass-fed dairy products, and is available at Whole Foods.)
1/2 head of lettuce, shredded


1. Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and oil in a large bowl.
2. End the debate with your roommate over whether the latest installment of 50 Shades of the Hunger Games at Twilight or whatever is worth a read.  No one is going to change anyone's opinion here.  It'll just make you lose focus on what you're trying to cook.
3. Add the milk and stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.
4. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for at least twenty minutes.
5. While the dough is resting, make your salsa. Dice up the tomato, onion, and peppers. Put all these together in a bowl, then juice the lemon over the mixture, sprinkle with a dash of salt, mix together well, and let it sit.
6. Back to the dough: break into 8 sections, roll into balls, place on a plate (make sure they aren't touching each other), cover the plate with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let sit for at least ten minutes.  This part is what will get the dough to relax and roll out properly.
7. While dough is resting this time, heat up the black beans in a skillet with your favorite herbs and spices, then remove from heat and cover so they stay warm.
8. Sprinkle a hard surface with white flour and, one a time, pat each dough ball into a four-inch circle and then roll them out until they are eight inches in diameter. (If you don't own a rolling pin, an empty wine bottle will do the trick.)
9. In a skillet heated on high, cook each tortilla for about 30 seconds on each side. (Note: 30 seconds isn't very long. Just stand by the stove. Don't walk away and do something else.)
Or else this will happen.
10. Throw in your beans, cheese, lettuce and salsa.  Fold and try to enjoy.
Not too bad, right?


  1. They look pretty!

  2. The quantity of corn in everything does bother me, but not enough that I'd throw the baby out with the bathwater!

    A noble attempt, but why not just consume less corn in other things, and still eat tortilla made from corn? It is absolutely more delicious.

    I think what I find even more concerning than the over-prevalence of (insert ingredient here) is the reactionary nature of Americans--as opposed to meeting extremism with moderation, we meet extremism with extremism. The real enemy isn't corn, sugar, soy, or meat--the real enemy is extremism, and we respond to it by being extreme.

    1. I agree with you David. Of course there's nothing wrong with corn itself, but with the system it stands for. I find that avoiding it forces me to think and learn about that system in ways I normally wouldn't, and figure out where my priorities lie.